Benjamin Franklin’s Bastard

Sally Cabot

  • Publisher: William Morrow (May 7, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0062241923
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062241924

About the book . . . 

An absorbing and compelling work of literary historical fiction, set in colonial Philadelphia, that brings to life a little-known chapter of the American Revolution—the story of Benjamin Franklin and his bastard son, and the women who loved them

Sixteen-year-old Anne is an uneducated serving girl at the Penny Pot tavern when she first meets the commanding Benjamin Franklin. The time she spends with the brilliant young printer teases her curious mind, and the money he provides keeps her family from starving. But the ambitious Franklin is committed to someone else, a proper but infatuated woman named Deborah Read who becomes his common-law wife. At least Anne has William, her cherished infant son, to remind her of his father and to soften some of life’s bleakness.

But growing up a bastard amid the squalor of Eades Alley isn’t the life Anne wants for her only son. Acutely aware of the challenges facing them, she makes a heartbreaking sacrifice. She will give up William forever, allowing Benjamin and Deborah Franklin to raise him as their own.

Though she cannot be with him, Anne secretly watches out for her beloved child, daring to be close to him without revealing the truth about herself or his birth, and standing guard as Deborah Franklin struggles to accept her husband’s bastard son as her own.

As the years pass, the bustling colonies grow and prosper, offering opportunities for wealth and power for a talented man like William’s father. Benjamin’s growing fame and connections as a scientist, writer, philosopher, businessman, and political genius open doors for the astute William as well, and eventually King George III appoints Benjamin’s bastard son to the new position of Royal Governor of New Jersey. Anne’s fortunes also rise. A shrewd woman of many talents, she builds a comfortable life of her own—yet nothing fills her with more joy or pride than her son’s success and happiness.

But all that her accomplished son has achieved is threatened when the colonies—led by influential men, including his own father—begin the fight for independence. A steadfast, loyal subject of the British Crown, William cannot accept his father’s passionate defense of the patriots’ cause, and the enduring bond they share fractures, a heart-wrenching break that will forever haunt them and those they love.

A poignant tale of passion, family, love, and war, Benjamin Franklin’s Bastard skillfully brings into focus a cast of remarkable characters drawn from real life, and vividly re-creates one of the most remarkable and thrilling periods of history—the birth of the American nation.

About the author . . .          
Sally Cabot lives in Brewster, Massachusetts, with her husband, Tom. A lifelong resident of New England, she is active in the local historical society and creates tours that showcase the three-hundred-year history of her village.  
Reader review . . . 
Born and raised in the poverty of Eades Alley, sixteen-year old Anne is happy to find employment as a serving girl at the Penny Pot tavern.  She quickly realizes there is more than one way to earn money there.  When she meets the young printer Benjamin Franklin, she has met someone who not only adds to her finances, but to her mind.  When she becomes pregnant with his child, he is not free to marry her because of his previous commitment to Deborah Read, his common-law wife.  Franklin convinces Anne that their son, William, would have a better opportunity in life if he and Deborah raised the child.  Over the years, Anne watches her child  as he grows up confused as to his parentage, with a stepmother who cannot accept him.  
Historical fiction can be tricky.  The novelist begins with whatever truths are known regarding the subject and then proceeds to build a story around the truth.  Conversations are invented, historical gaps are filled, and sometimes characters are created.  This is the case with Benjamin Franklin’s Bastard.  The identity of William Franklin’s mother has never been known, but the author has used the known rumors and theories of the day to create the character of Anne.  She has done an excellent job of making a little-known part of American history interesting and understandable, while preserving the accuracy of historical facts.
5 stars
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